Peter Lee is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon Church”), former LDS Bishop and Stake President, as well as a retired Social Services Manager. He is now working as a professional family history researcher in the United Kingdom. Peter is currently in the process of collecting inspirational family history research stories for publication in book form.
On a never-to–be-forgotten day–7th December 1958, in Manchester, England–I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently referred to by the media as “The Mormon Church”). My parents and my sister, Susan, 15 years of age, likewise entered the waters of baptism that same day. My younger sister Jane, aged 3 at the time, was eventually baptized after attaining what the Lord has revealed to be “the age of accountability”–8 years old.
From our initial exposure to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and to the Church organization, my family was enthusiastic and committed; the first few years of membership were especially exciting as we witnessed rapid growth, attended Latter-day Saint (Mormon) conferences and instructional meetings, assisted in the construction of chapels, and witnessed the creation of the first stake (geographical group of Saints) in Manchester, England in 1961 by Harold B Lee, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
We progressed spiritually as new converts to the Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons), including learning about the opportunity to do family history. The inspired and lofty doctrines underpinning this work were literally a revelation to us as we came to understand that those who did not have the opportunity of receiving gospel ordinances in this life (baptism, receipt of the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple sealings) would have the opportunity in the next, through vicarious temple ordinance work, leading to the possibility of eternal family life in the presence of God the Father and our Savior and redeemed loved ones. We came to understand that families are indeed intended to be forever.
We worked together as a family to gather names and other information relative to our close ancestors. I recall visiting my maternal grandmother to note down family names and facts she had stored in her memory. I visited other relatives, and also Lower Peover church in Cheshire, England, to obtain information from registers and gravestones. Generations of our ancestors worshipped and are buried there.
One of the first of my ancestors to benefit from temple work was Grandfather Tom Collinson Lee. In 1960 my father, Furniss William Lee, arranged for the proxy work to be done in the London Temple and soon after he had a dream which confirmed that his father had accepted the work. No one is forced to accept temple work performed in their behalf, but the offering of the gospel to those departed without a knowledge of it, is a gift of love provided by an all-merciful and all-just God for each of His children equally, on both sides of the mortal veil–in life or in the spirit world, awaiting the resurrection.
Another lovely, early experience, occurred on 19th October 1968, when I and my parents attended the London Temple. We were all present for the proxy sealing of my maternal great-grandparents, Charles Booth and Martha Allen. The Spirit of the Lord was very powerful and we were left in no doubt that the work was gratefully received and accepted.
Time went by and as I was working hard to raise a young family, establish myself professionally and accept increasing responsibilities in the church we agreed that
the lead role for researching our closest kin would remain with my parents and this continued until 7 years ago.
My mother was the youngest of 9 children which included 6 girls.I loved all my aunts including Helena (Lena) and Alice and have very fond memories of them and the others.
I had a lovely experience in relation to the completion of their temple work.
One Saturday in September 1993 I suddenly became aware that aunt Alice was sitting next to me in my car as I drove into town (Chester, England) and it came to me through the Spirit that she was delighted that her temple work was being done.
Later in the day, I also felt the presence of Aunt Lena, again while driving my vehicle into town and received a witness that she, too, was very happy to accept the work. Until I spoke with my mother by telephone the next day, I was unaware that she completed both endowments–instructions in the temple enabling those who receive them and keep them to enter into higher ordinances and then enter the Lord’s presence) at the London Temple on that Saturday–first Alice, then Lena.
For many years my parents took the lead in researching our ancestors and preparing for their Temple work to be done and much was accomplished in this time. About 7 years ago I assumed this responsibility as my parent’s health deteriorated. Initially with the help of a professional genealogist we have been able to extend our lines back for many generations. After receiving help from our local family history Director I was able to learn how to use PAF and submit names for Temple ordinances. More recently I have become well acquainted with www.new.familysearch.org, an excellent online church programme that has taken family history into the 21st century.
This has been a glorious and exciting 7 years but there is still much to do and there are many years of work ahead for me and other members of my family. During these 7 years I have learned for myself what President Boyd K Packer; current Apostle of Jesus Christ, has taught for many years, (see Ensign article-August 2003), which is that paths open when we start. I have come into contact with others with whom I have common ancestors and have been able to add to our family tree.
Some of my paternal forbears can be traced to the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland, a mountainous area in the Northwest of England blessed with beautiful lakes, forests, moorland, and farms. In May of 2008 my wife and I took a short family history holiday to see where they had lived. We visited ancient villages and churches where my relatives had worshipped, including close examination of adjacent burial grounds with particular regard to tombstone inscriptions carrying family names.
It is interesting to note that one of my ancestors, Mary Ivison, was christened in the church at Kirkoswald, Cumberland, England, which is where the third Prophet of the Church, President John Taylor’s parents were married a few years prior to her christening.
Additionally we visited the Quaker meeting house in Kendal, Cumberland, England, where my Quaker ancestors, Benjamin and Mary Collinson worshipped over 200 years ago. At the service, I bore testimony of Christ and read aloud Corinthians 13 about faith, hope and charity. We also visited the location nearby where Benjamin owned a clockmaker’s shop.
The late Prophet Howard W Hunter wrote in a Latter-day Saint monthly magazine available to any who would like to receive it, “With regard to temple and family history work, I have one overriding message: This work must hasten. The work waiting to be done is staggering and escapes human comprehension.” Later in the same article he writes,
The objective of family history work is to make the blessings of the temple available to all people, both living and dead. As we attend the temple and perform work for the dead, we accomplish a deep sense of alliance with God and better understanding of his plan for the salvation of the human race. We learn to love our neighbours as ourselves. Truly there is no work equal to that done in the temple. (March Ensign 1995)
Seeking out our ancestors is not always easy, but it is infinitely worthwhile. Not only do I find the work for my own family to be deeply satisfying, but it is also a joyful experience to serve as a family history consultant at ward level. Those who do this work will undoubtedly receive the blessings of heaven for their efforts.
Family history is an important part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Learn more at the official site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths as the “Mormon Church”).